Guest Opinion: Tech execs can teach Trump

The Seattle Times
Dec. 14
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President-elect Donald Trump should have learned a thing or two from America’s leading tech companies after meeting with their executives in New York on Wednesday.

Better than anyone, the leaders of Microsoft, Amazon.com, Apple and others can explain the value of free trade, welcoming immigrants and embracing the diversity of employees and customers.

Their success shows how America has benefited from an extended period of stability, predictable international relations and increasingly consistent trade policies.

These tech executives can explain to Trump that their overseas partnerships, satellite offices and research activities amplify American diplomacy and security. They create economic ties and positive sentiment, especially in developing countries.

They may relate how they’ve been able to build the most successful companies in history and create hundreds of thousands of top-tier jobs, despite taxes and regulations that Trump believes are onerous and job-killing.

These leaders can also stress the importance of investing in research and education, to seed innovation and create the next generation of engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs.

If they don’t get too technical, they might even be able to convince Trump that it’s a terrible idea to break their software encryption and provide backdoors to the government. Weakening the security of their products enables bad guys as well as good guys to break into a phone or computer.

Trump, in turn, may reiterate his pledge to provide a special tax break on the estimated $2.5 trillion that tech and other companies stashed overseas to avoid U.S. taxes.

The executives probably won’t remind Trump that the last time they received such a tax holiday — under President George W. Bush in 2004 — it was a policy failure. Instead of creating jobs as promised by the scheme, the prime beneficiaries ended up cutting jobs and giving their executives big raises. This time, Americans should get a better deal.

Just spending time with Microsoft’s eloquent CEO, Satya Nadella, will be valuable to the incoming president.

Nadella personifies the globalization of the tech industry and the benefits it brings to America. The native of Hyderabad, India, has created jobs for thousands of Americans as he worked his way up through the ranks of the world’s biggest software factory. Now he’s responsible for more than 60,000 U.S. jobs, including 45,000 in the Puget Sound region.

As Trump was campaigning on a platform of xenophobia and protectionism, Nadella was creating even more jobs in the heartland.

Over the last year Nadella committed to spending billions on datacenters and renewable-energy projects in Trump-supporting states such as Kansas, Wyoming and Iowa.

The biggest is a datacenter in West Des Moines, Iowa, that will cost $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion. Microsoft’s been building datacenters there since 2008, helping the state establish itself as a player in the data-storage industry.

Americans are likely to hear more about such investments during Trump’s honeymoon.

They can be spun into headlines suggesting that he convinced these companies to create jobs at home, even if the jobs were created by diverse, global companies in progressive states.